A message from ISME regarding Covid19

Dear member,   

We are seeing a heavy call volume to the office regarding Covid19, and its impact on business. The main queries fall into just a few categories, which I will address for you below.   

The latest Government announcement, addressing closures, is here

PLAN 

We’re still in the early stages of this, and it will probably get worse. One of the most serious impacts for most businesses will not be Covid19 itself, but the widespread closure of schools and creches. This will force significant withdrawals of labour from the workplace. Try to work as flexibly as you can with your staff to minimise the impact of this. If you haven’t yet made a plan, it’s not too late, and a template is available here: 

The closure of schools, creches and public facilities will impose a major difficulty with childcare. Please work as flexibly as you can with staff affected.

STAFF SELF-ISOLATION 

We are entering a phase in the pandemic where substantial numbers of people will be absent from work through self-isolation. In some business sectors they will be able to continue working remotely, in many others, they will not. 

The priority agreed among Government, employer and union representatives this week was to try to maintain the net earnings of those people. 

DEASP will increase the illness benefit to €305 per week, legislation is expected next week.  Certification and qualification criteria will be less restrictive than currently apply. This will be available for the self-employed, but will NOT be available where people absent themselves to look after children or old people.

WORKPLACE CLEANLINESS 

This is essential to keeping everyone in the ‘containment’ phase for as long as possible. With a little thought and discipline, high levels of hygiene and distancing can be maintained. You need to lead from the front as business owners. Ban hand-shakes: bump elbows or feet, or any other clothed part of the body, but stop hand-shakes! Make sure everyone aggressively maintains hygiene in office/workplace, in bathrooms, kitchen/canteens, and at work stations. Make sure staff have access to sanitisers and wipes.   

INFORMATION 

There is so much false or misinformed information going around, therefore it is essential that you inform yourself and your business from official sources. The essential sites for you to follow are: 

  • HSE Covid19 page 
  • Government Covid19 page (including travel advice) 
  • Department of Business and Enterprise page
  • ISME’s Covid19 page is here, and we link it only to Government information  

STAFF LAY-OFF AND SHORT TIME 

If you need to lay off staff or reduce their working week, there is a formal process for doing so HERE.  Be aware that the employee has a number of options as to how they accept such a notification, including claiming redundancy: Therefore you need to consider your options if you are about to lay off staff, especially those with longer service who could trigger a substantial redundancy payment. Where it is necessary to place staff on a three-day week, you should draw their attention to the DEASP to avail of short-time work support:    

CASH FLOW 

No matter how well we manage Covid19 in the workplace, most businesses will experience cashflow issues in the near future, and many are suffering right now. It is necessary to plan for decisive action now. Don’t keep the head down and hope it works out. Get ahead of it. Talk to the Revenue now, and if necessary, ask for an Online Phased Payment Facility: 

Talk to your accountant, and seek advice. Talk to your insurance broker about your cover for business continuity, event cancellation, or other cover. We understand that exclusions exist on many policies for ‘notifiable diseases’ so this may not work. Talk to your bank about increased short-term funding, or payment holidays on mortgages, etc. Talk to your creditors about more relaxed repayments if required- but remember- if everyone tries this, we all run out of cash, quickly. It is likely, if this continues, that there will be a serious reduction in liquidity. All areas of the travel & hospitality sector are experiencing massive declines in income right now. 

ISME, and all trade associations, have alerted DBEI to the likelihood that serious interventions such as PAYE/PRSI/USC/VAT and rates deferrals will be required. (The UK pulled many micro businesses out of the rates net in their budget).

Neil McDonnell

Chief ExecutiveISME